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Pondering Advent: First Movement – Hope and Wonder

by Willie Mangum

Pondering Advent: A Symphony from Scripture for New Life
First Movement – Hope and Wonder

What would make a man’s heart faint within him?

I believe this is the right question. I don’t think the answer will be expected. It may even be a bit unsettling. It is unsettling to me.

I intend “unsettling” in the same way a ghost story is unsettling as a Christmas story. It feels a bit strange, at least until you consider that A Christmas Carol is a ghost story, and one of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time.

This unsettling brings us closer, I believe, to the heart of what tends to get lost in contemporary celebrations of Christmas. As we ponder the themes of Advent in light of this question perhaps our hearts, too, will faint within us!

Advent Liturgy and Symphony

Craig von Buseck gave us a wonderful overview of Advent. I hope you’ll read it (perhaps again?).

Look, I grew up in the plain old protestant south, and wasn’t familiar with church calendars, liturgy, and the entire stodgy, ceremonial hullabaloo I thought was going on in those cold, dark, cavernous cathedrals built for fancy folk.

Later in life, I learned the deeper significance of lighting candles, readings in Scripture, and the hymns—all designed to focus our hearts on a simple event with eternal significance.

Churches typically observe Advent during the four Sundays in December leading up to Christmas. Each Sunday a relevant Biblical passage is read, and the corresponding candle is lit. A broad outline looks like this.

  • First Sunday: Prophecy Candle – Hope
  • Second Sunday: Bethlehem Candle – Faith
  • Third Sunday: Shepherd’s Candle – Joy
  • Fourth Sunday: Angel’s Candle – Adoration/Praise
  • Christmas Eve/Day: Christ Candle – Fulfillment/Promise

This liturgical structure is similar to the four-movement structure of a symphony, so I borrowed it for this series of articles titled, “Pondering Advent: A Symphony from Scripture for New Life.”

From Stodgy Hullabaloo to Fainting Heart

This first week of Advent the ‘Prophecy Candle’ represents waiting, preparation, and hope. The prophets, inspired by God, reminded the people to look forward to the coming of Messiah, the Son of God, who would redeem His people from their sin.

Miriam Webster adds this: the ‘capitalized’ use of “Advent” means “the coming of Christ at the Incarnation.

What an incredible word…Incarnation. Say it aloud. Incarnation. The “arrival” or “appearance” of Jesus in the flesh. I mean, this ought to raise goosebumps on your arms!

This is an amazing, historical reality. The truth is Advent cannot exist apart from the humble “arrival” one Holy Night of a baby, in a stable, in an obscure little village called Bethlehem of Judea.

This brings us back to the initial question: What would make a man’s heart faint within him?

Familiar Words Rushed Over, Become New

This man whose heart faints within him speaks words of prophecy in the throes of unimaginable suffering. It comes out of nowhere and cuts straight to the heart of hope.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27)

In our rush to declare Job the model for modern patience, I believe we miss this critical clue, this gorgeous example of prophetic hope, and of absolute, jaw-dropping, raising-the-hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck wonder!

Job’s Profession

Wonder reveals that Job wasn’t so much patient as he was persistent. Persistent in his conversation with friends that seemed to be going nowhere good. Job knew that what they were telling him (God would later affirm this) simply didn’t add up.

This is Job’s exclamation of wonder – his declaration of Hope  – his profession of faith!

So what caused Job’s heart to faint? Was it the depth and breadth of his suffering: the loss of his ten children, his vast wealth, and his physical health? Maybe it was the betrayal of his wife and friends.

Certainly all of these things taken together could cause any man, even a man of incredible physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength, to whither and lose heart.

This First Movement: Hope and Wonder

Yet, there is wonder. Incredulously, four or five hundred years before Jesus walked the earth, Job could proclaim, “I know that my Redeemer lives!”

Not only that, but his Redeemer will stand upon the earth! Wait, there is more! Even after his flesh completely rots away, Job proclaims “…yet in my flesh I shall see God.”

I will see my Redeemer in my flesh! I will see my Redeemer with these eyes! Me, and not another! Is your heart bursting with hope? If not, check your pulse.

I know that my Redeemer lives!

Yes, the hair on the back of my neck is standing on end! I am unsettled to the very core of all doubt, fear, uncertainty, suffering, and even rejection.

I will persist, and so will you. Rejoice. Rejoice, there is Hope! Oh, the wonder of Christmas!

My heart faints within me!

Related Articles

Advent: God’s Presence Is Your Present

Your Best Christmas Ever

Finding Peace This Christmas

Heaven’s Christmas Day Invasion

 

Willie Mangum is the Social Media Manager at Inspiration Ministries.

 

 

 

 

 

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